Rashford and Smalling shine for Man United as City slip up

Blues' performance could mean incoming boss Pep Guardiola faces possibility of the Europa League next season

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford celebrates in the Manchester derby
(Image credit: 2016 Getty Images)

The Manchester derby was settled by a goal from local boy Marcus Rashford, but the ramifications could be felt far beyond Lancashire as Manchester City were left clinging onto their Champions League place with the title now an impossible dream.

Rashford has scored five goals in eight games since being brought into the United team and is flourishing in the limelight, says the Daily Mirror. "Nothing fazes him and City couldn't handle his pace and movement; he seemed to enjoy his battle with [Eliaquim] Mangala in particular."

The 18-year-old is now "central to Louis van Gaal's plans for the rest of the season", says the Manchester Evening News, which praises the player's "incredible" work rate.

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"Whatever else happens, this season will not have been a waste for United if Rashford delivers on even half his potential," says Jonathan Wilson of The Guardian.

Rashford embarrassed veteran City defender Martin Demichelis with his goal and then should have won a penalty after the Argentine clattered him in the box. It was a chastening experience for Demichelis,

"Faced with the pace of Rashford, the Argentinian was like a war elephant startled by a squealing pig, spooked into devastating his own lines," says Wilson.

The story was very different at the other end of the pitch, with United's Chris Smalling expertly marshalling a below par Sergio Aguero. This will go down as Smalling's "breakthrough season", says Alan Smith of the Daily Telegraph. "Consistently and impressively he takes responsibility at the heart of defence to lead with authority in the way his talent originally promised upon arriving at Old Trafford in 2010."

While United manager Van Gaal had every reason to be satisfied, his opposite number has even more problems after Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling both picked up injuries that could keep them out for several weeks, potentially undermining City's hopes of both progressing in the Champions League and qualifying for next season's competition.

"Pep Guardiola faces the possibility of managing Manchester City in the Europa League," warns The Times.

The good news for City is that the incoming boss has committed to taking over and cannot back out, says the Daily Mail. The Spaniard "had not banked on his new employers floundering so dramatically in the Premier League", but "does not have a clause in his contract wavering any deal should City not qualify for the Champions League".

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